Thompson Wins By Staying Grounded

PHILADELPHIAIt was no coincidence that Phillies officials had Triple-A Lehigh Valley righthander Jake Thompson make his first start after the all-star break on the same night that Jeremy Hellickson opened the second half for Philadelphia.

Hellickson is a trade candidate. Thompson has positioned himself to be the next starter to join the Phillies’ young rotation.

“The thought of (a promotion) is exciting,” said Thompson, 22. “But right now I’m focused on pitching where my feet are at and continuing to grow.”

Thompson has grown significantly in his first International League season. He ran up a 4.23 ERA in April and May but in nine starts since June 1, he went 6-0, 0.58 while allowing five total runs. He struck out 37 in 62 innings while allowing a .195 opponent average.

“Over the last month or so I’ve gotten more consistent,” Thompson said, “to the point where I feel like even if I don’t have my good stuff, I can still give us a chance to win by going deep and keeping runs off the board.”

Thompson was one of four potential difference-makers the Phillies acquired from the Rangers for Cole Hamels last July. Jerad Eickhoff already is contributing in the big league rotation, and outfielder Nick Williams and catcher Jorge Alfaro aren’t far away.

The Tigers made Thompson a second-round pick in 2012 out of high school in Heath, Texas. Detroit traded him to Texas for Joakim Soria in July 2014.

With 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings this season, Thompson is not a huge strikeout pitcher. He relies on his ability to command five pitches, particularly his sinker.

“That’s my personal bread and butter,” he said. “That’s what I use to get ground balls, particularly behind in the count.

“I think I am becoming a more experienced pitcher. I’m able to be more efficient. In the past, I was a high pitch-count guy and rarely got into the eighth inning. This season I’ve already pitched eight innings three times, and I’m proud of that. It shows growth.”

The Phillies want to build their rotation around groundball pitchers, and Thompson will soon get his chance to show he belongs.


• Top prospect J.P. Crawford started slow after his promotion to Triple-A, but the shortstop caught fire and hit .353 with a .950 OPS through his first 17 games in July.

• High Class A Clearwater lefthander Elniery Garcia improved to 8-2, 2.50 through 14 appearances, and in his July 13 start he threw eight innings of one-hit, no-run ball.

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